Zephaniah 1:1. The Word of the Lord came to Zephaniah. The glorious person of Christ, the Word and Wisdom of God; so indeed is the oft-repeated gloss of the Chaldaic in all the book of Chronicles, when a prophet was sent to warn and reprove the land of Israel. The name given to him by his parents, “the secret of the Lord,” might seem to have been an augur of his divine call.
Zephaniah 1:2. I will utterly consume man beasts birds and fishes. It was known to the ancients that birds perish by pestilential contagion. “The birds themselves, affected by pernicious air, fall and die beneath the cloud.”
Ipsis est aër avibus non æquus, et illæ Præcipites altâ vitam sub nube relinquunt. Georg. 3: 546.
The blood in a city after carnage, washed into the river by tremendous rain, will suffocate the fish. Yet the words of the prophet are figurative, and intimate that God would cut off even the fisher-men by the sword.
Zephaniah 1:4. I will cut off the Chemarims with the priests. This is a name of contempt, not that they wore black clothes, but that like the name of the Zamzummim, it is given them because of their shouts at the time of their idolatrous sacrifice. The word is translated priests in 2 Kings 23:5. God would destroy these vile men, with all the priests of Aaron's race who had joined in their idolatry. These were the stumblingblocks which occasioned the nation's fall.
Zephaniah 1:5. Them that worship the host of heaven upon the house-tops. Great families had private altars on the flat roofs of their houses, where they made oblations to Venus, Jupiter, and the stars; where also they lifted up their hands and swore by Malcolm, the idol of the Ammonites. See on Judges 10:6. This worship is sabianism, which spread through the oriental world. Job 1:15.
Zephaniah 1:7. The Lord hath prepared a sacrifice. The flesh of the people, and hath invited his guests, the Chaldean army to the feast. Jeremiah ascribes this slaughter to the sins of the false prophets, and the apostate priests. Lamentations 4:13.
Zephaniah 1:8. I will punish all such as are clothed with strange apparel. Lycurgus compelled the Spartans to dress according to their rank. The court, following monthly fashions, under pretense of giving a stimulus to trade, do great injury to the middle classes by exciting a spirit of emulation, and so involving them in superfluous expenses to provide new dresses for their wives and daughters. The young men also must now wear women's stays, forsooth, and so prevent their growth. A dandy race, reproaching the Creator for deficiency in the configuration of the body.
Zephaniah 1:10. A cry from the fishgate. Nehemiah 3:3. It led to Joppa, now St. John D'Acre, whence fish were brought from the sea. This was properly the port of Jerusalem. The next verses describe the cessation of all trade, when the invading army approached. Such are the horrors and visitations of war.
Zephaniah 1:11. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh. This is the lower city where trades, manufactures, and merchandise were carried on. But critics are not agreed as to the precise import of the word. It might be some outworks adjacent to the city, as the tanneries of Southwark adjacent to London.
Zephaniah 1:13. They shall plant. A better reading would be, Though ye have planted vineyards, ye shall not eat of the fruit thereof.
Zephaniah 1:17. Their flesh shall be as dung; filling all the streets of Jerusalem, and all the courts of the temple. So great was the slaughter on the rebel city, that their blood flowed like water, as described in the seventy ninth psalm. The people of all ages were trodden under foot, as grapes in the wine press. Lamentations 1:15.
Our prophet having received a divine commission, and probably in early years, opens his ministry like a thunder storm. He exhibited an angry God, marching in fury with fire and sword, cutting off all the living beings of the land, and covering all verdure with the desolations of winter. He saw the angry clouds, as in the next chapter, roll beyond the confines of his country, to pour their latent fury on the nations that laughed at Judah's fall. And what else but such a ministry could rouse a guilty land, from carnal slumber, and sensual repose.
On the Chemarim, on the priests, on those that turn their backs of the Lord, the keenest blasts of the tempest shall blow; for the sins of the sanctuary are doubly provoking in his sight. On the Sabian worshippers upon the house-tops, who could eat their peace-offerings when the moon had begun to repair her new horns, the blast shall blow down their altars. When the Lord begins he will also make an end. All their wealth and pride shall be a booty for the men who do the Lord's strange work.
The prophet, to give his warnings full effect, adds, that the day of the Lord was near. As a watchman, he trifled not with the souls committed to his care. While blowing the trumpet, he left not the harshest truths untold. It was a day of wrath, a day of distress and desolation; a day in which neither gold nor silver should procure a reprieve. Such are the attributes of Him with whom we have to do. He discovers the fire of jealousy on men who had set up another god.